Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Force of Five


Directed by: Krissanapong Rachata
Written by: Nonont Kontaweesook, Napalee, Piyaros Thongdee
Starring: Nantawooti Boonrapsap, Sasisa Jindamanee, Pimchanok Leuwisetpaiboon, Johnny Nguyen, Conan Stevens, Richard William Lord

The makers of hit brutal Thai actioners Ong Bak, Chocolate and Raging Phoenix turn their talents to the kids movie and deliver, well, another brutal action movie. See Force of Five, despite featuring five pint sized sprogs and lots of daft knockabout antics, is actually a very violent action movie. Five little dudes, 3 boys and 2 girls, are learning Thai boxing under the tutelage of their harsh but ultimately kindly master. When the youngest member falls ill with a heart problem the other four club together to help raise money to help buy him a radio controlled car he really wants. When a replacement heart is found for the little fighter, the other four are by his side as he waits the transplant. But, and wouldn't you know it, the hospital is seized by gun toting terrorists after an important American ambassador also residing at the hospital. So, the other four race to get their buddy his new heart all the while thwarting the bad guys and dishing out brutal Muay Thai action.

So, Die Hard in a hospital with kids and kung fu? Yeah, pretty much but it's hard to decipher whether Force of Five is actually a kids movie or a grown up action movie. While it's certainly professionally made, the tone is all over the joint: at first lots of silly kid's antics as the group get into all kinds of hi-jinks and have to use their fighting skills to get themselves out of the various fixes they find themselves in, then switching to a somewhat serious tone as hostages are gunned down and the kids find themselves in various violent confrontations. The Goonies this aint! Maybe the makers were just trying to appeal to both audiences (you know: comedy for kids, violence for adults!) but maybe it's just a cultural thing: Thai cinema not afraid to show their youngsters overcoming and surviving dangerous situations. Which, thankfully they all do. To be fair the young cast aren't as annoying as you would expect and refreshingly seem to have respect for one another and enjoy helping each other out. They also kick ass in the action department.

Overseen by Thai action legend Panna Rittikrai (Born to Fight, Chocolate), the action scenes, while not a surfeit of them, deliver some bone crunching fight action. Starting off more playful with the kids taking out a drunk grown up to creative effect, the action turns edgier for the final twenty minute blowout as the kids go toe-to-toe with ace fighter Johnny Nguyen (Warrior King). No comedy hi-jinks here or softening of blows as the kids show their skill and take on bad guy Johnny like Tony Jaa would take on a fleet of black suited bad guys. Sure the fights don't quite reach the dizzyingly brutal and intricate heights of say Ong Bak or Chocolate but they are not far off. Nguyen is a proven screen fighter and doesn't hold back in pummeling the kids (though he doesn't look too happy about doing so), once again displaying some impressive leg work. The kids hold their own too, high kicking and elbowing-to-the-face in some satisfying glass shattering fight action.

Force of Five isn't as bad as it might first seem but it surely is an odd film and an acquired taste. But at barely an hour and fifteen minutes its breezes by, albeit with regular injections of hard edged violence that you wouldn't expect in a kids film. But then again, I'm still not sure this is supposed to be a family film. It also has the bizarrest and most inappropriate closing credits one is likely to see as the kids are rewarded for their daring do by being whipped with a cane by their master to the accompaniment of happy music!!! Strange indeed.

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